One of the godfathers of semitic studies, Frank Moore Cross Jr., wrote a piece in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies in 1953: “The Council of Yahweh in Second Isaiah,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies, (12) 1953, 274-277.
Here I reproduce a part of this article. Isaiah 40:1-8 is generally recognized today by biblical scholars as being a divine council scene. With this in mind, traditional ultra-monotheistic interpretations of various Second Isaiah passages must be revised.
The symbolism of the council of Yahweh forms the background also of several oracles of Second Isaiah (and related material). These belong to an oracle type (Gattung) which may be described as divine directives to angelic heralds, or the closely related category, the divine proclamation delivered by a herald.
Isa. 40:1-8 is a parade example of this literary form in Second Isaiah. The passage opens with an unusual series of active imperatives, plural: nahamu, dabberu, qiru, “comfort ye,” “speak ye,” “proclaim ye.” The problem of the identity of the subject of these imperatives has baffled commentators. Traditionally it has been held that Yahweh here directs “prophets in general,” Israel’s priests, or the remnant of the faithful to proclaim the message of consolation. That such interpretation are forced has been recognized by most moderns…..Rather, the setting is the heavenly council in which Yahweh addresses his heralds, nahamu, nahamu, ammi, “comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” That such is the dramatic background of the passage is immediately confirmed by the following verses in which herald voices (introduced qol qore or qol omer) are heard proclaiming the divine message quite as directed in verses 1 and 2. Their proclamation announces the imminence of Yahweh’s appearance in acts of redemption and, more specifically, directs preparations for a “superhighway” on which Yahweh will march through a transformed desert at the head of his people. This herald proclamation in verses 3 and 4, to level hills and raise valleys, is directed to supernatural beings, to the council of Yahweh. This is indicated in the cosmic scale of the preparations for the divine theophany and is substantiated by Malachi’s comment (3:1): “Behold I send my messenger and he shall prepare the way for me.”
In verses 6-8 an anonymous herald addresses the prophet, announcing to him his inaugural oracle, “All flesh is grass…but the word of our God shall stand forever.” Verse 6a is to read with the versions and the new Dead Sea Isaiah (A), “A (herald) voice said, ‘Proclaim’; and I said, ‘What shall I proclaim?’” The parallel to Isa. 6:1-8 is remarkable.
It is strange that the full force of the symbolism of Yahweh’s council in the opening verses of chapter 40 has not been recognized.
Cross also briefly examines Isa 48:20-21; 57:14; 35:3-4; and he mentions Isa 52:1-10; 62:10-12; cf. 44:26; and 40:26. Cross addresses each of these passage as being “of like literary type.”
The very section of Isaiah which mainstream Christians most point to for evidence of their metaphysical monotheism begins with a divine council scene, a scene which presupposes the existence of multiple divine beings. Some Christians may argue that these council members are angels, or some kind of being that is ontologically different from Yahweh. Unfortunately, such an ad hoc twist is completely unwarranted by the scriptures. That these divine beings in Yahweh’s council are of the same basic species as Yahweh is taken for granted by the biblical authors, and is supported by data from Ugarit.